James Pryor Thatcher
From Our Contribution
|Date of Birth||27 Mar 1915|
|Place of Birth||Fremantle, Western Australia|
|Death||22 Nov 1943|
|Place of Death||Thailand|
|Age at Enlistment||25 years, 2 months|
|Description||5'7" (1.70m) tall ; ; blue eyes ; light brown hair|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Address||'Wattle Creek', Byford, Western Australia|
|Next of Kin||Father , Mr Ernest Thomas Thatcher|
|Date of Enlistment||20 Dec 1940|
|Unit/Formation||2/3rd Australian Machine Gun Battalion|
|1st Departure from Australia|
|Journey Dates||16 Apr 1941 ‒ 14 May 1941|
|Transport Details||SS Île de France Fremantle to Port Tewfik|
|Journey Dates||31 Jan 1942 ‒ 17 Feb 1942|
|Transport Details||SS Orcades Port Tewfik to Tanjong Priok, Java|
|Post War Details|
POW captured Java |
Died of illness while POW in Thailand
Armadale War Memorial |
ANZAC Memorial Park (Byford)
|External Monument(s)||The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial Ballarat, Victoria|
|Australian War Memorial||Australian War Memorial|
1939-45 Star |
War Medal 1939-45
Australian Service Medal 1939-45
Enlisted and initially taken on strength of the 2/2nd Machine Gun Battalion at Northam camp. On 22 Jun 1940 James had shown early signs of leadership and was made an Acting Corporal. From 4 - 18 Aug 1940 he attended a Machine Gun course, and then on 29 Oct 1940 he, along with his sub unit entrained for Adelaide, arriving there on 31 Oct 1940. On arrival they found that they had been transferred to the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion. From 18 - 20 Feb 1941 James was in the Wayville Camp Hospital with Otitis Media (middle ear infection). Granted pre-embarkation leave in WA from 25 Mar until 4 Apr 1941 he reported to a holding unit until 16 Apr 1941 when he embarked on the SS Île de France a part of Convoy 10B which sailed to Port Tewfik in Egypt via Colombo in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where they disembarked on 14 May 1941. His rank of Corporal was confirmed just prior to embarkation.
On 8 Jun 1941 he was appointed Lance Sergeant, just prior to his unit participating in the Syria-Lebanon campaign against Vichy-French forces, and he was further promoted to Acting Sergeant on 4 Sep 1941 while they were acting as Garrison troops guarding against any attempt by Axis forces to drive south from the Caucasus mountains. The unit spent time near Beirut, Aleppo and Tripoli before being warned to prepare for a relocation to the Far East.
The battalion was at Fih in Syria when orders came to move to Singapore to strengthen their defences, and it moved first to Palestine on 14 Jan 1942. On 31 Jan 1942 they boarded a train which took them to Kantara on the canal where they crossed over it, before moving on to Port Tewfik. Here on 1 Feb 1942 they boarded the SS Orcades for Tanjong Priok (Jakarta's harbour) via Colombo in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) as Convoy JS2. While the troops were aboard, all their equipment and primary fire power was aboard smaller, slower ships that were to form Convoy JS3. The unit's B Echelon, however, could not be accommodated aboard the Orcades and thus was not captured in Java, and later formed the nucleus of a reborn unit in Australia during 1943. The main body aboard Orcades arrived in Colombo on 8 Feb 1942 and departed next day. By the time they reached the Sunda Strait, Japanese troops had begun landing in southern Sumatra and so they were rerouted to Oosthaven, arriving there on 15 Feb 1942, the day Singapore surrendered.
Soon after unloading began, Japanese troops were reported to be nearby and those troops quickly re-embarked and the ship sailed. James' records show him disembarking on 8 Feb 1942 at Batavia (Jakarta's Dutch name). The book Across the Sea and to War (Peter Plowman, Rosenburg Publishing, 2003) suggests that they departed Oosthaven on 16 Feb 1942, and disembarked on 17 Feb 1942 at Tanjong Priok as part of 'Blackforce Java'. The next entry in his records is a report dated 7 Mar 1942 that he is 'Missing', date unknown, and then 'Missing believed to be POW' dated 30 Jul 1943, and finally 'POW interred JAVA CAMP'. An entry dated 25 Jul 1945 reports that he had died of illness Amoebic Dysentry on 22 Nov 1943 in Thailand.
On 17 Feb 1946 James' remains were exhumed from Tarsao, and reburied in the Kanchanburi War Cemetery.